Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

September 12, 2012

Fujitsu Laboratories Ltd. announced that it will join forces with Japan’s National Institute of Informatics to create a robot that can earn admission to Tokyo University, the most prestigious university in Japan, The Wall Street Journal reported. To gain admission, the robot (like other applicants) will have to pass a national entrance exam for universities and one that is given only by Tokyo University. The project is prompting renewed debate over artificial intelligence.

 

September 12, 2012

Jamie Kuntz, who is gay, says he was kicked off of the football team of North Dakota State College of Sciences, for being seen kissing his boyfriend, the Associated Press reported. The kiss took place at a football game where Kuntz could not play because of a concussion, so he was in the press box at a game, filming the competition. His boyfriend was with him and at one point they kissed. The coach of the team asked Kuntz about the kiss and he initially said that his boyfriend (who is older) was his grandfather. He later told the coach the truth, and was subsequently kicked off the team. The coach says he violated team rules by lying to a coach, but Kuntz said that the real reason was that he was seen kissing a man. College officials are investigating whether this was the first time someone was kicked off the team for lying.

 

September 12, 2012

Amy Bishop has reached a plea agreement to resolve the charges that she murdered three of her colleagues in the biology department of the University of Alabama at Huntsville, The Huntsville Times reported. Under the agreement, she entered a guilty plea in one of the murder counts, and also admitted that she tried to kill three others. The agreement means she will spend the rest of her life in prison, but spares her the death penalty.

 

 

September 12, 2012

Tying a college's Pell Grant eligibility to completion rates could undermine college access for poor and minority students, especially at community colleges, Mark Kantrowitz, publisher of FinAid.org, wrote in an analysis Monday. Rather than focus on completion rates, Kantrowitz argued, more focus should be placed on increasing the number of Americans with college degrees -- a focus that could even cause completion rates to fall if more students enroll and do not all complete college. Focusing solely on completion, as some fear a Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation-supported panel that will focus on student aid as an incentive might do, could end up hurting low-income students, Kantrowitz wrote: "One of the easiest ways to increase graduation rates is to exclude high-risk students. So efforts to boost college completion may directly or indirectly shift eligibility for the Pell Grant program from financial need to academic merit, hurting college access by low-income students."

September 12, 2012

In today’s Academic Minute, Richard Brutchey of the University of Southern California explains a breakthrough that will allow any surface to become a solar cell. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

 

September 12, 2012

The annual college rankings of U.S. News & World Report are out today, with only one change in methodology. The two most recent years of guidance counselor surveys, rather than just one year of data, will be used to calculate the counselors' ratings. The participation of college presidents in the survey (by filling out reports on the reputations of other colleges) is up a bit this year, if still way behind the two-thirds participation levels of a decade ago. For the new edition, 44 percent of all presidents participated, up from 43 percent a year ago. Liberal arts college presidents have been particularly critical of the rankings, but their participation rate was also up this year -- 47 percent, up from 44 percent a year ago.

September 11, 2012

Two House of Representatives committees announced a joint hearing Wednesday on the National Labor Relations Board's agenda in higher education. Congressional Republicans have frequently clashed with the NLRB on issues outside of higher education. But now the NLRB is exploring the right to collective bargaining for graduate students and faculty members at private colleges. A statement announcing the hearing said: "Higher education officials are concerned the NLRB’s efforts to impinge into postsecondary schools could lead to reduced academic freedom and higher costs for students."

 

September 11, 2012

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has announced a series of amendments to its July report on private student loans, including two statistics the bureau now says were incorrect.

The report, which called for increased regulation on private student loans, including asking Congress to consider allowing borrowers to discharge those loans during bankruptcy, understated the proportion of student borrowers who hadn't exhausted their federal loan options. Since some students did not take out federal loans at all, and in some cases did not apply for federal financial aid, 55 percent — not 40 percent — of private student loan borrowers did not first exhaust their eligibility for federal loans, which have more flexible repayment options than most private loans.

But the report also overstated how many loans were made without college involvement. From 2005 to 2007, the proportion of loans made without a college's involvement or consent grew from 18 percent to more than 31 percent, the agency said. It had reported earlier that as many as 70 percent of loans were made without college certification.

That correction was the result of an updated methodology developed with industry experts and sample student lenders, the agency said. The previous number had not counted loans if the lender did not provide specify in what program (undergraduate, graduate, medical, law, and similar classifications) the borrower was enrolled, meaning many undergraduate loans were missed, the agency said in its report. The new methodology used proxies (such as "course of study" or "year in school") from the data to determine the program type.

The agency said the corrections do not affect the report's conclusions. "While the frequency of [direct-to-consumer] borrowing is lower than the Agencies had previously concluded, the risk of consumer harm related to DTC lending programs is unchanged from the original analysis," the consumer protection bureau wrote in its report on the changes.

September 11, 2012

The Middle East Studies Association of North American has written to senior Iranian officials asking them to stop official newspapers from attacking the International Society for Iranian Studies. That group typically holds its annual meeting in North America, but this August held its 2012 meeting in Istanbul, with the goal of allowing more scholars in Iran to participate. As described in the letter from the Middle East Studies Association, an officially supported newspaper ran an article on the international group, saying it was dominated by "Royalists" and "Zionists," among others. Following this article, many of the scholars based in Iran canceled plans to go to Istanbul for the meeting. The letter to Iranian officials said, "The open pursuit and free expression of knowledge and ideas, without fear of reprisal and discrimination are guaranteed under Iran's Constitution.... MESA urges the authorities in Iran to work towards and protect the free exchange of ideas, freedom of expression in all forms, and the unrestricted pursuit of academic research without fear of intimidation and persecution."

 

September 11, 2012

Florida A&M University is defending itself in a wrongful death lawsuit by the parents of a student who died in the middle of hazing by the marching band by saying that it was the student's fault he participated, The Orlando Sentinel reported. Papers filed by the university said that Robert Champion, the man who died, should have known that hazing was wrong and dangerous and against university policy, and so the university should not be held liable. Christopher Chestnut, a lawyer for Champion's family, said he was stunned by the argument. "We cannot ignore the irony and audacity of an institution in blaming Robert for his death," he said. "Blaming students for hazing allows the culture of hazing to become deadly."

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